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Space Science

Ariane 5 Has No Chance, Says Elon Musk 188

Dupple writes with some remarks by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, as reported by the BBC, on the Ariane 5 launch vehicle: Musk is anything but a disinterested party, but he has some especially harsh words for the ESA rocket: "'I don't say that with a sense of bravado but there's really no way for that vehicle to compete with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. If I were in the position of Ariane, I would really push for an Ariane 6.' Ariane's future will be a key topic this week for European Space Agency (Esa) member states. They are meeting in Naples to determine the scope and funding of the organisation's projects in the next few years, and the status of their big rocket will be central to those discussions."
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Ariane 5 Has No Chance, Says Elon Musk

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  • SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:5, Informative)

    by nojayuk ( 567177 ) on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:28AM (#42026033)

    The Falcon 9 has flown four times IIRC; in two cases things went wrong -- on its first launch the orbital payload ended up rolling and yawing in the wrong orbit and on the fourth launch it lost an engine and couldn't deploy a secondary payload successfully and the mission was not a complete success. The Falcon Heavy is still to be completely assembled never mind actually flown.

    The Ariane 5 in ES, GS and ECS configurations has 50 completely successful launches under its belt since the last failure back in 2002. It has a proven track record of delivering twice the payload of the Falcon 9 to LEO and twice the projected payload of the F9 v1.1 to GEO (since SpaceX has not yet attempted a launch to GEO).

    Musk's comments sound like FUD to encourage sales of Falcon 9 launches, nothing more.

  • Re:SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:3, Informative)

    by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:37AM (#42026077)

    "and on the fourth launch it lost an engine and couldn't deploy a secondary payload successfully and the mission was not a complete success." - a couple of points.
    Firstly, the secondary payload was launched on this basis, with the understanding it was not a guaranteed launch, for a reduced fee.
    Secondly, the rocket was actually capable of doing the secondary mission, but was prevented due to NASA rules precluding it.
    (The rules were there to eliminate even the theoretical possibility of the relit second stage hitting ISS. They were arguably a bit tough).

    Reliability isn't everything.
    At some point, if you're a third the cost, even if you lose one vehicle in five, you start getting a lot more business.

  • Re:SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:5, Informative)

    by nojayuk ( 567177 ) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:34AM (#42026543)

    The market SpaceX is competing in already has the Ariane as well as other commercial/military launchers like the Deltas, the HII-B and of course the venerable Soyuz (1700 launches and counting) which is a closer match to the Falcon 9's capabilities. They're playing catchup with their launch price being the big market attractor while they get the bugs out and improve their throw weight.

    What would you be launching and where for 200 mill? A geosync DBS bird costs about 100 million shrinkwrapped for launch with insurance, load integration and launch costs pushing the total price up to about 400 million dollars US after it has been delivered to its final position in the GEO constellation.

    Scientific and telecomms platforms can be put into LEO for a lot less, of course but there are a lot more boosters other than the Falcon 9 that can do this job; the Ariane's speciality is DBS launches, two at a time with a side-order of Space Station resupply and reboost ATVs delivering 6 tonnes plus of payload and fuel per shot in a 20-tonne vehicle (the first commercial DragonX resupply mission carried about 500kg of cargo and no fuel).

    SpaceX still hasn't attempted even a test GEO launch of a single DBS/GEO payload and is incapable of putting the biggest such satellites in place -- INTELSAT 20 launched by Arianespace in August this year massed about 6 tonnes, a tonne more than the uprated Falcon 9 is expected to be able to put into GEO. The same launch also put a 3-tonne DBS into GEO making the entire launch load over 10 tonnes including ancillary materials, way above anything the Falcon 9 will ever be able to do.

  • Re:SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:4, Informative)

    by SomeKDEUser ( 1243392 ) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:56AM (#42026789)

    you can get soyuz launches from Arianespace. TRhey launch from Kourou, which gives them a higher payload capability than if you bought it directly from the Russians to be launched in Baikonour.

    Arianespace clearly knows that things are moving and that a medium launcher which is very cost competitive is a good idea. Soyouz is almost imposible to beat... And they also know about the need for small launchers, which is why they have added Vega to their lineup -- vega development which are also useful for future booster capabilities.

    Musk talks about Ariane as though it were the only product from Arianespace. Not so :)

  • What is the cost per kilogram delivered into LEO? The Falcon 9 can deliver 13 metric tons to LEO for $54 million, or $4 million per metric ton. That PSLV rocket that you are quoting only puts 3 metric tons to LEO for the $17 million, or about $5 million (plus change) per metric ton. The $54 million is the quote on the SpaceX Falcon 9 web page [] if you want the source.

    Russia has actually raised their launch prices in part because of the demand for them is outstripping their supply and they have a backlog on production at the moment. They are simply being capitalists, which is a good thing too but sort of shoots your theory out of the water. Name a specific launcher if you think it can be more competitive.

    The Ariane V vehicle [] has a launch cost of $120 million and puts about 15 metric tons into orbit, or about $8 million per metric ton. In other words, it is literally twice the cost as the Falcon 9. It can put up a slightly heavier payload at the moment, but that is something SpaceX is trying to fix with their Falcon Heavy rocket.

    If you want to find the source from Chinese space officials who toured the SpaceX plant in Hawthorne, California and said they couldn't compete, do some Google searching on the topic. I won't bother but it was widely reported at the time including a post here on Slashdot when it happened.

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